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Refinitiv appoints first female CTO after IT leadership shake-up

Alex Cesar steps up to be chief technology officer at financial service data provider Refinitiv, after previous CTO Phil Wellard took over as global CIO in September

Financial services data giant Refinitiv has completed a shake-up of its IT leadership team, with the appointment of its first female chief technology officer (CTO).

Alex Cesar has been promoted from global head of Refinitiv’s core data platform to become CTO with responsibility for leading the company’s software engineering teams.

Refinitiv was formerly the financial and risk business of Thomson Reuters, providing financial markets data and infrastructure to more than 40,000 institutions in over 190 countries. Cesar joined Thomson Reuters in January 2017 after spending two years at Deutsche Bank.

Cesar will report to Refinitiv’s global CIO, Phil Wellard, who was until recently the CTO. He stepped up to the CIO role after the departure of John Finch, the former Experian and Bank of England CIO, who left Refinitiv in September this year.

Refinitiv is currently owned by investment firm Blackstone Group, but is in the process of being acquired by the London Stock Exchange (LSE) for £22bn. LSE shareholders will vote on the proposed deal in November.

Wellard said that Cesar’s appointment shows the commitment of the company towards unlocking barriers for women in technology to reaching senior and C-suite roles. The senior leadership of the firm’s technology organisation is made up of 50% women. 

“Alex knows the industry very well and I’m delighted this appointment shows we are committed to removing obstacles that inhibit women from advancing a career in technology,” said Wellard.

“She is also a passionate advocate for working with charities to bring technology, coding and professional expertise to children in the community.”

Cesar is also CTO for the Women in Banking and Finance group, which she holds as a voluntary position.

Refinitiv's internal IT team is made up of about 5,500 people, with a further 4,000 working via suppliers or contracting. The company has major tech hubs in Bangkok, Beijing, Bangalore, New York City and St Louis in the US, as well as around 600 people in the UK tech team.

In an interview with Computer Weekly in June, Finch outlined some of the key technology challenges the business faces.

“Our customers more and more are thinking about consuming capability like ours through the cloud rather than through our infrastructure and their own,” he said.

“Some of our data is delivered in close to real-time and cloud introduces another layer of latency, so finding ways to engineer around this is interesting.”

Finch said that his biggest challenge as CIO was finding the right talent, especially for in-demand roles such as data science.

“There is absolutely a war for talent for people that can understand big data and data science,” he said.

“How do we set ourselves up to attract the right talent? More importantly, how do we develop our existing people that have great domain expertise into data science type people?”

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